Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Democrats fail to mention "Don't ask, don't tell"

In last night's Democratic presidential debate in Nevada, each candidate completely missed the point about why elite American colleges do not have ROTC programs:

NBC's TIM RUSSERT: …There's a federal statute on the books which says that, if a college or university does not provide space for military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal funding. Will you vigorously enforce that statute?

CLINTON: Yes, I will. You know, I think that the young men and women who voluntarily join our all-volunteer military are among the best of our country….

RUSSERT: Of the top 10 rated schools, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, they do not have ROTC programs on campus. Should they?
CLINTON: Well, there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation. But they should certainly not do anything that either undermines or disrespects the young men and women who wish to pursue a military career.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, same question. Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?

OBAMA: Yes….

RUSSERT: This statute's been on the books for some time, Senator. Will you vigorously enforce the statute to cut off federal funding to the school that does not provide military recruiters and a ROTC program?

EDWARDS: Yes, I will….

The reason these schools do not have ROTC programs (and fight military recruiters tooth and nail) is that the government's homophobic "Don't ask, don't tell" policy violates these universities anti-discrimination policies, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. If the government had ended "Don't ask, don't tell" after September 11, 2001, most of these schools would have immediately reinstated ROTC.

In a previous debate, all of the Democratic candidates (including Obama, Clinton, and Edwards) raised their hands in support of ending "Don't ask, don't tell." Yet all three failed to mention it as a strategy to returning ROTC to America's elite campuses. Hopefully this does not represent a shift in gay rights support for the Democratic presidential candidates.

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